NIH offers leasing options

Federal agencies that want the latest in medical and information technology now have the option of leasing needed items through a National Institutes of Health Web site.

As part of NIH's Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC), the new program enables agencies to lease items such as CT scan machines, defibrillators and laser devices and gives them the option of trading in the equipment when a newer product hits the market.

The project is the brainstorm of CP Leasing Inc., whose parent company is Goldbelt Inc., an 8(a) Alaska native corporation based in Juneau.

Once a cottage industry, the leasing of equipment that might be out of date in just a few years is gaining steam as a result of government budget squeezes. "The whole thing is knocking down the cost of ownership," said James Cooke, general manager of CP Leasing. The com.pany's contract with NITAAC is worth $250 million per year over a five-year term, and NITAAC receives a 1 percent negotiated fee for handling each transaction.

But Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., said agencies should be careful when considering leasing because it can end up costing more than an outright purchase.

"You are supposed to do a lease/purchase analysis, and most often, purchases are the lowest cost," he said. "The reason leasing is attractive is that you don't have to have the money upfront."

But Cooke said agencies opt to lease equipment not only because they don't have the cash for a purchase, but because they don't want to own the product.

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